The HyperTexts

Ellaraine Lockie




Ellaraine Lockie has been published in poetry magazines, journals, broadsheets and anthologies in the U. S. and internationally, and has received a number of writing awards, including eleven nominations for Pushcart prizes. Her four published chapbooks are: Midlife Muse, Poetry Forum (winner of their 2000 chapbook contest); Crossing the Center Line, Sweet Annie Press; Coloring Outside the Lines, The Plowman Press; and Finishing Lines, Snark Publishing. She also teaches school and community poetry workshops and writes nonfiction books, magazine articles/column and children’s stories. Her nonfiction books are: All Because of a Button: Folklore, Fact and Fiction, St. Johann Press; The Gourmet Paper Maker, Creative Publishing, and The Low Lactose Kitchen Companion and Cookbook.



The Whipping Woman

The woman I hire to daughter my mother
makes bi-weekly visits to the dementia ward
Lies down beside the near-still waters

Accepts the mouth kisses wet with drool
From where gravelly words
dribble down washed-out gullies

Like a whipping boy she bears the brunt
of each face-to-face flagellation
that my rawhide flesh refuses

And for twenty dollars an hour I purchase
like the contraposition of a professional mourner
Substitution for services I can’t supply



Stiff

The jaw drops
after his last breath
The nurse says hold it shut
so it doesn't freeze fallen

And the eyes she says
Finger force them closed
Easier on the relatives
A living look
As though he's resting
in his beloved rose garden

We wrestle with the ring
Second-skin stuck on finger
Already curled in death claw
Rock hard but glass fragile
I wonder if it breaks
would blood still spurt
Not so nice for the relatives

We wash private parts
with warm water
Why warm I wonder
on a cold cadaver

The relatives won't know
And they won't see
the stiffened organ
Old age flaccidity
dilated in death
I wonder do I hold
that down too

The nurse says maybe
he's too lifelike now
But not alive enough
for the daughter
Who stares out the window
At the rose garden




Sizing Down in the Driveway

The lady lays a quarter on the card table
An autocratic offer for an antiquated edition
of Betty Crocker basics

Betty and I go back to my bridal shower
The book is more than a two-bit buy
I say to the Saturday morning insult
Bittersweet menus from a first marriage
flavoring my bargaining ability

But she’s already thrashing through
a throng of scarves
Separating silk wheat from synthetic chaff
Faint whiffs of Ambush fragrance
trapping memories with olfactory talons

That drop me on a Montana farm
Where a fourteen-year-old dabs her first perfume
Reverie interrupted when the skinflint
singles out six scarves and says they stink

So will I settle on fifty cents for the stack
Ambush isn’t manufactured anymore
so the smell is collectible
I contend
As her son in one sadistic twist
separates a jewelry box from the ballerina
that once danced my daughter to sleep

And Mr. Scrooge caresses a 22-caliber rifle
Wants to know its past before he purchases
As if a possible heinous act
might haunt him posthumously

But I’m the one besieged by effigies
Of a deer carcass swinging from a barn ceiling
And a father queuing tin cans on a fence
before he teaches his daughter a soft trigger touch

Just the image I need to open fire
With verbal violence aimed inward
Vengeance for pricing my past

Pardon possible when I post a sign saying
Former Lives Free For All
And I leave the nettling family
To negotiate the here and now
To meet the future halfway



Vacation Violation

Her body sprawls bare
across sweat wet hotel sheets
in East Berlin’s hottest heat wave in history
She sleeps sound in pseudo security
under the four stars
bestowed the establishment
Their shine not as bright
as a flashlight on a moonless night

Instrument of invasion
for visual violation
By the intruder standing
at the edge of her bed
His unzipping unheard
over Leipziger Street sounds
In her hibernation state
after thirty airline hours

He knows now her closed eyes are brown
Precisely where she lives
The location of each of her 130 pounds
He’s privy to her month’s net worth
when he diminishes it by $950 in bills
Before he places the purse
on her pillow and slips away
Sadist who steals her sleep
for the balance of her Berlin stay



Litigation at Lunch

She’s a vegetarian she asserts
Reading animal rights from the menu
Justice for all
certified by the decisive fall
of her salad forked gavel

After I order prime rib medium rare
Her nose wrinkles
with the stench of condescension
Smog of an anti-stockyard statute
tainting the space between us

And I flinch in defense
from the unspoken accusation
The two-second trial prosecuted
A premeditated vegan verdict of guilt
As the evidence arrives red and innocent

My anger eases into awkward
And in the interest of an appeal
or perhaps compromise
I comment on the similar taste
we share in shoes--leather strap sandals



Commonplace

She’s nude in the kitchen
Her solution to icing-spattered silk
When he walks through her
to grab a beer

Ghosts of an earlier time
when he'd do a double take
Drink the beer later

Lukewarm then
like their worn-out bodies
She craves that kind of power
Ability to flick a switch
and generate instant thermal energy
Spontaneous combustion

Until she became everyday invisible
Familiarity-fostered immunity
injected over years of routine
Dangerous as the disease
it was meant to prevent

Extramarital epidemic extraordinary
As oblivious to him
as her immaculate clothes



Brotherly Love

I knew cancer was coursing
through his body
in stage four deadly drama
The doctor having prepared us
for the final act
in his appointed position
A combination of God
and aggressive casting director
Allocating antidotal roles to archangels
with names like Leucovarin and Kytrel
Typecast as side effect soldiers
Performing all-too-temporary truces

I knew he’d be a memorable hero
Benchmark behaved like a hundred year oak
Even though no malignant knots
ever before blighted our family tree
He sits rooted by the peace
of each pain-free day
Suspended in the soft deception
of a leather lounge chair
While bombs of chemotherapeutic
proportion drop from plastic bags
Staging his private world war
Poisonous parts played out
in provisional victories

I didn’t know I was an actress
Another stretch he’s pulled
in my elastic existence
Like the tugs that lured
a little sister from farmwife fate
The push into college, classical music, safe sex
All the quality-of-life debts
scripted across my cinematic mindset
As I sit watching the IV
rerun its surreal suspense
And I pretend in Oscar-quality portrayal
that oak trees are immortal
and make-believe can recast reality

The HyperTexts